Speaking out against the exploitation of women and children: Collective Shout cited in NSW Modern Slavery Act report
Report cites Collective Shout and Movement Director Melinda Tankard Reist
Following its 2019 Inquiry into the Modern Slavery Act 2018 and Associated Matters, the New South Wales Legislative Council tabled its final report last month. The Act makes new provisions regarding child sexual exploitation material through the addition of the following offenses to the NSW Crimes Act 1900:
a new aggravated offence in relation to using a child to produce child abuse material, and a new offence of providing information to assist a person to avoid detection for a child abuse material offence.
We welcomed these new provisions which will strengthen capacity for holding offenders to account for sex abuse crimes committed against children.
The report contained several references to Collective Shout’s submission and evidence presented by Movement Director Melinda Tankard Reist who appeared for us at the Inquiry hearing last November, including the following quote from our submission:
New South Wales law must ensure that any person who is facilitating such horrific acts as the abuse on demand of babies and other young children, wherever the abuse might be occurring, through a digital platform operating in or accessed from New South Wales, is subject to an offence, whether the person administering or assisting to administer the digital platform does so intending it be used for that purpose or after becoming aware that it is being used for that purpose fails to take all reasonable steps to prevent that use.
Contrary to our recommendations against watering down the Act in relation to digital platforms the amended Bill now excludes the previously proposed new criminal offence of administering a digital platform used to deal with child abuse material. Conflicts between Federal and State law was cited by the committee. Several contributors to the Inquiry objected to this deletion, noting that its inclusion was stronger than the provisions of Commonwealth legislation to hold digital platforms and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) accountable for hosting child sex abuse material. We shared concerns that its exclusion will provide loopholes for such offenders. As Melinda Tankard Reist pointed out at the hearing:
The child victim is a part of the slavery supply chain. Combating modern slavery has to include combating the global epidemic of this pay-per-view torture of children in the growing trade of predators commissioning the live sexual abuse of a child viewed via their computer screens and facilitated by their ISPs. ISPs and telcos including Telstra, Optus, iiNet and TPG are providing the infrastructure for the live streaming of the abuse of children to be possible. ISPs are part of a chain which contributes to the distribution of child sexual exploitation material but they have not been brought to account.
Melinda Tankard Reist at the Inquiry hearing, 4 November 2019
In her verbal evidence, MTR commended other contributors to the Inquiry, including International Justice Mission Australia (IJM) and the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia (CATWA), as well as the expert advice of UK Anti-Slavery Commissioner Kevin Hyland. We were pleased to see Hyland’s six-point strategy for ending modern slavery featured in the report, which highlights the need for all nations to mandate - through legislation - a child-exploitation - and human-trafficking-free internet, as well as the outcomes of the proposed legislation which, according to Hyland, include “leading businesses into generating ethical profits free from exploitation and modern slavery”. We anticipate this outcome will have positive consequences for the broader community - women and girls particularly who stand to benefit from corporates who are unwilling to profit from exploitative activities.
While not mentioned in the Final Report, we noted CATWA’s significant observation that the Act’s proposed minimum $50 million annual turnover threshold for mandatory supply chain reporting will fail to capture agents of the sex industry - an industry in which women are at greatest risk of trafficking and slavery. In its submission CATWA concluded:
A requirement for sex industry businesses to report would be a first step in the fight against modern slavery.
We strongly support this recommendation and would advocate for its inclusion in any future amendments.
Read our full submission to the Inquiry here.
Read the full Parliamentary Hearing transcript here.
Read the NSW Legislative Council's final report here.
A 22 year old man who was caught with child pornography involving babies, coerced a teenage girl into sending him nude photos before publically humiliating her by posting them to Instagram. At the age of just 20, Alastair Wayne Anning was found with about 10,000 photos and videos of child exploitation which he downloaded using an app he thought was untraceable. Judge Devereaux sentenced him to 18 months imprisonment, suspended after three months.
A Mackay man caught with more than 1000 “disturbing” child pornography images and videos secretly filmed his 15 year old stepdaughter showering with a friend and using the toilet. Judge Dick handed down an 18 month sentence but the man will serve just 5 months in prison before that term is suspended for 2 years.
A paramedic has been charged with possession of “disturbing, repulsive” child pornography images and movies. Police located 13 movies in total and 4426 images – the majority classified as one of the most grossly offensive type of child exploitation material including acts of penetration and sadism. Judge Burnett ordered Parsons to a sentence of 15 months jail, suspended after 2 months.
These are just a few examples of people charged with possession of child exploitation material in the last month. The sentences are very similar, and lenient, across the board.
In early 2017, Collective Shout launched a campaign to hold people who access child exploitation material more accountable for their actions. This accountability also needs to be directed towards internet service providers and their obligation to better monitor what their users are accessing.
We were fortunate to have the opportunity to write a submission for the inquiry into the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Sexual Crimes Against Children and Community Protection Measures) Bill 2017. In our submission we agreed wholeheartedly that sentences for accessing child exploitation material needed to be increased. The above examples give you a general cross section of the types of sentences being handed down.
In addition to harsher sentencing, we also called on government to introduce legislation to increase liability for carriers (internet service providers) to more closely monitor and report on people accessing child exploitation material. Some fantastic recommendations came out of the inquiry, including increasing penalties for ISP’s for failing to pass on information, having a more formal reporting process, and allowing the Australian Federal Police to access service users personal details. Unfortunately, due to privacy laws surrounding service provider/service user relationships, ISP’s are not obligated to pass on client information.
The amendments to the Crimes Legislation Bill have already been debated twice in Parliament in 2017 and are scheduled to be debated again early 2018. At this stage, there has been no debate about the responsibilities of ISP’s, just debate around increasing sentencing penalties.
The United Kingdom has introduced “opt in” rules for people wishing to access the internet. If a service user wants to access 18+ content, they have to let their ISP know and provide their credit card details and proof of age. This allows police and ISP’s to better track people who are accessing child exploitation material. In Australia, you have to “opt out” of seeing this content or use internet filters. The UK model is not perfect, but it is a step in the right direction to continue to crack down on people accessing and sharing child exploitation material.
Collective Shout will continue to lobby MP’s and work with other organisations to make sure ISP’s obligations are at the forefront of any bill amendments. Thank you so much for your support during 2017! We could not have achieved what we have without your help.